Brutal heat and little rain affects crops
The first week of July celebrated freedom, but there was little from the stretch of terrific heat and minimal rainfall that is taxing Wisconsin’s crops, livestock and people.
The “Wisconsin Crop Progress Report” released July 9 said daily high temperature records were broken at all five major reporting stations, as temperatures soared into the triple digits across much of the state.
Average temperatures were 11-15 degrees above normal, with average high temperatures ranging from 92-98 degrees. Madison broke 104 degrees, Milwaukee and La Crosse marked 103, and Eau Claire and Green Bay hit 99.
The heat continued after sundown, with several cities marking record high overnight lows. Relief came on Saturday, as the heat wave broke and temperatures dropped to more seasonable levels statewide.
Rain did fall in northern Wisconsin and crops took advantage of the heat, the report said, but non-irrigated crops in the drought-stricken southern portions of the state were in very poor condition.
“Everything without irrigation looks dead,” the reporter from Marquette County said in the document created with input from a state-wide network of farm reporters and ag agents.
In Rusk County, rain on Monday and Friday night bracketed days in the upper 90s. Corn grew right through the heat with first tassels showing at the end of the week, the local correspondent said.
Corn was also starting to tassel in Taylor County. It’s very early for the area, that reporter said, noting fields planted later in the season are significantly shorter. Many reporters echoed that early planted crops were hanging on, but late planted crops were stunted and stressed.
As of July 8, soil moisture was 95-100 percent short to very short in four of the report’s nine reporting districts. Pastures in these areas were in very poor condition as well, adding to the stress on herds, and rain is badly needed, the report underlined.
For the week ending July 8, precipitation totals ranged from zero in La Crosse and Madison to 0.76 inches in Eau Claire.
“Heat, heat and more heat has taken its toll on the crops”, the Dunn County reporter shared. “We’ll need some moisture soon to get third crop growing.”
In Dane County, water levels are extremely short and no rain in June is putting shrubs and trees under stress, while La Crosse County remains very dry. “The high temperatures this last week took a toll on plants, animals and people. Everything needed hydration…still does,” the local reporter said.
Irrigate was also the watchword in Portage County, where there has been no rain to speak of in the last two weeks and hot heat. “Many crops are severely hurt in the light soils, if not dead without it,” the reporter said, noting most second crop alfalfa is poor and very short.
The ground in Kewaunee County is dry and cracking, sparking comments from producers that the fields tend to be bumpier than usual. “The plants are in a holding pattern at the present time and, hopefully, some rain will fall soon to advance the growth of all crops,” the reporter said.
No rain fell in Vernon County, where the week’s worth of temperatures in the 90s and 100s have reduced pastures almost down to nothing, the reporter said. “This county needs rain and soon,” he added, “but it looks better than others around us.”
By week’s end, corn hit an average height of 54 inches, up from 40 inches last week and the five-year average of 45 inches. There was 11 percent silking statewide, well above the five-year average of two percent.
Reporters across the state told of corn curling in the extreme heat. Even in areas that have received rain, corn on light soils needs more moisture.
Especially with ears and pods being set by corn and soybeans, rain is the biggest priority right now, the reporter from Grant County said. “Pasture conditions are very poor and existing hay is needed to feed now with the lack of good pasture ground,” he added.
Soybeans were 16 percent in bloom by week’s end, comparable to the five-year average of 13 percent by July 8. However, reporters said soybean growth has halted in some areas due to lack of moisture.
The oat harvest is pushing two to three weeks earlier than average, the report noted, with 14 percent harvested for grain by week’s end.
Farmers polished off 87 percent of second cutting hay and had already taken five percent of the state’s third cutting. In comparison, the marks for July 8 of last year and the five-year average are zero.
However, moisture shortages and insect damage ate into the hay harvest, making for poor yields and quality. Reporters in the driest areas said growth of third crop has halted.
In Kewaunee County, where third crop harvest was just beginning, the reporter said yields have been declining since the first crop, but quality is pretty good.
Quite a few producers have had to deal with variegated cutworm, armyworm and aphids in their alfalfa and soybean fields. “A lot of pesticide is being applied so these unwanted guests leave,” he added.
Third crop hay is coming back nicely in Taylor County where, overall, the crops still look “very good”. The insects are also holding their own, with many local reports of army worms and some leafhoppers.
Crops also look good in Langlade County. “Overall conditions are good to excellent in our area right now. Just enough periodic moisture to stay ahead of the extreme heat,” the reporter said. “Severe weather seems to just keep missing us.”
The winter wheat harvest was reportedly speeding along in southern and central Wisconsin, with good yields reported for both grain and straw.
In Kenosha County, winter wheat was yielding over 70 bushels per acre, 12 percent moisture, and test weights at 61 pounds.
Blueberry picking was underway in Chippewa, Eau Claire and Portage counties. Potatoes were blooming and reportedly in good condition in Oneida, Langlade and Dunn counties, as well as Portage County, where early potatoes were being dug.
The weekly “Wisconsin Crop Progress Report” is a cooperative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection and the National Weather Service.
It is produced at National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Wisconsin field office under the direction of Robert Battaglia.